Olga Titus “Simsalabim”


poster for Olga Titus “Simsalabim”

This event has ended.

Curated by Lara Pan

WHITEBOX HARLEM presents the first NYC solo exhibition of Swiss–Malaysian artist Olga Titus titled ¨SIMSALABIM,” curated by Lara Pan. This exhibition features the artist’s recent video output, including a new body of work filmed at the Ijen volcano complex in East Java, Indonesia. Her videos feature recurring motifs and imagery surrounding questions of identity, spirituality, and globalization, which artist has developed into a signature personal iconography.

SIMSALABIM is an intentional appropriation of a magic word. The word’s use is commonly attributed to Dante the Magician, a.k.a Harry August Jansen, one of the most well known magicians of the early 20th century, whose death is commonly considered the end of the “Golden Age” of magic. He would shout the incantation, much like “Abracadabra,” before a trick’s big reveal. However, the origin of the world is murky, with speculation aboutHebrew, Latin, and Arabic origins, but there is no consensus on the true source of the “magic word.” The word itself is a Hybrid of several words and meanings, with all possibilities holding equal weight.

These ideas of simultaneity and double-meaning are at the core of Titus’ newest video works, Hybrids and Fountain of Existence. These two works explore the notionand the origin of identity—What is identity? What does it mean to society? How does it evolve over time? Like the magic word SIMSALABIM, where does the notion of identity come from? Who can claim its cultural heritage?

I would love to quote philosopher David Lewis on this topic, who explains that anything that looks like a problem about identity must really be a problem about something else—

“More important, we should not suppose that we have here any problem about identity. We never have. Identity is utterly simple and unproblematic. Everything is identical to itself; nothing is ever identical to anything except itself. There is never any problem about what makes something identical to itself; nothing can ever fail to be.”

In other words, every individual has a completely unique, stable identity; the problem occurs when one’s concept of oneself comes into conflict with society’s.

At this moment, we are witnessing the enormous power of social media and rise of identity issues in our global political landscape. The new generation of artists that OlgaTitus belongs to are developing their own singular languages to express their ideas about what it means to be an individual in today’s rapidly-shifting culture. Titus blends elements from fiction and non-fiction that speak to our present reality, experimenting with different film tropes and styles in each new body of work.

Fountain of Existence and Hybrids were filmed at the Ijen volcano complex in East Java, Indonesia. Inspired by retro low-budget science fiction, the barren rocky landscape stands in for an unknown planet. At WhiteBox, these works will be shown alongside examples from a previous body of work that is visually quite different—in contrast to the muted tones of the newer work, works like Crystallization explode with bright colors and elaborate imagery in a nod to both Bollywood culture and Western pop-culture kitsch.

Olga Titus draws from her Malaysian and Swiss background, combining it with clever references to social media and pop culture. In an idiosyncratic and thoroughly personal way, the artist romanticizes her cultural heritage through symbolical imagery. Her approach to video art promises to transport the viewer into her world and experience that “magic” moment, one that will be imprinted indelibly in the memory.

@ Lara Pan 7 22 2019



from September 04, 2019 to September 28, 2019

Opening Reception on 2019-09-08 from 18:00 to 20:00


Olga Titus

  • Facebook


    All content on this site is © their respective owner(s).
    New York Art Beat (2008) - About - Contact - Privacy - Terms of Use